“…the past isn’t something you can go back to.”

It seems that I am reading everything but what I have put on my original list. The books come in from the library, where they’ve been on hold since I first heard about them, and I devour them before they are due. (Next up? Silent Parade by Keigo Higashino, also not listed in my sidebar as an intended read for the Japanese Literature Challenge 15.)

Touring The Land of The Dead is one of two novellas included in this book by Maki Kashimada. It is one of those Japanese books which is not really a story; it is more of a discovery. A tour of one’s past, if you will, to find one’s place in the present.

Nasuko has married Taichi, a man who developed a neurological disease such that he must walk with the assistance of a cane, or at least the support of someone. All four of his limbs are unable to coordinate properly, and yet this does not discourage him. When people help him onto the bus, he thanks them, and praises their kindness to his wife. When he gets to the baths, he lets others help him to the water, and basks in its comforting warmth. He finds joy in everything.

Not so the people in Nasuko’s past, what she has come to call that life. It is a life inhabited by a selfish, entitled mother and brother, who seem to find joy in nothing. They take. They accuse. They want more. It stands in stark contrast to her husband who has every reason to complain, yet never does.

Anyone else would no doubt have been fed up with it all, with the unfairness of everything. But, Taichi wasn’t like that. Of course unfairness still existed in the world – but he just swallowed it down whole. No matter how bad it was, no matter how poisonous.

p. 70

It’s a very interesting concept to think about, especially in these days of great discontent. Blame. Taking. Thinking of oneself before others. I wonder how it is that some people are able to swallow unfairness whole, while others choke on a single morsel.

On The Bus in The Rain, a novella by Haruka Kimura

Across the aisle and diagonally to my right, my exact double is sitting in a one-seater. No… technically, he’s me as a high schooler. Reflexively and vigorously, I rub at my eyes, and it sure isn’t hay-fever season.

While on the bus in the pouring rain, our narrator notices his seventeen year old self sitting to his right. Should he get up and tell his younger self that everything will be all right, at least until he reaches the age of twenty-seven? And, wouldn’t he like to know his future self at the age of thirty-seven?

This novella is an introspective look at who we were, who we are, whom we might become.

I know that I constantly examine who I was, and often wish that I could have told my younger self information that I only know now that I am older. But, would I really tell myself what would happen? What I should do? I have learned from making the choices I did, they have formed who I am today.

What would be gained by talking to my future self? Do I want to know the joys, or sorrows, of what will happen in the next ten years? Perhaps it is best to get off the bus without saying a word, to face each year with fresh innocence. Perhaps it is best that we don’t know all that we will choose, or all the events that will make us who we are, in advance.

“On the Bus in the Rain (雨の日のバスで)” won a Kobe Shinbun (newspaper) literary contest in July, 2019. You can read this novella yourself by clicking here.